New Mexico State (22-8) at Nevada (23-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 1st, 11 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Lawlor Events Center (11,536) -- Reno, Nevada. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: NMSU 14-3, Nevada 13-2. Away Record: NMSU 6-4, Nevada 9-2. Neutral Record: NMSU 2-1, Nevada 1-1. Conference Record: NMSU 9-3, Nevada 1-1. Series Record: New Mexico State leads, 19-16.
GAME NOTES: Already owners of at least a share of the regular season title in the Western Athletic Conference, the Nevada Wolf Pack now shoot for the outright crown as they entertain the New Mexico State Aggies at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno.
Nevada, which has won six of the last nine WAC titles but has been shut out since 2008, owns an 11-1 conference mark this season and needs just one more win in the final two games to keep the trophy all to itself. Last weekend the team was in a dog fight against Fresno State on the road, forced to play into three overtimes before securing the 79-76 win at the Save Mart Center. The victory was the fourth in the last five outings for a program that has lost just twice since late November.
As for the Aggies, they are the ones who are hoping to catch up to Nevada in the standings, sporting a WAC record of 9-3 with just this and a meeting against Fresno State remaining in the regular-season schedule. A hot team in its own right, NMSU has won five straight and seven of the last eight games overall, sporting a pair of 100-point games during that stretch. On Saturday New Mexico State's offense was slowed down slightly as it posted a 79-68 win over San Jose State at home.
The Aggies lead the all-time series by a count of 19-16, although it was Nevada that won the first meeting of the season in Las Cruces, a 68-60 final in late January at the Pan American Center. Since joining the WAC just over a decade ago, the Pack has taken six of the eight meetings played in Reno.
Wendell McKines registered a double-double with 20 points and a game-high 15 rebounds as NMSU posted the 11-point win over the Spartans last weekend at home. Also logging a double-double for the Aggies was Hamidu Rahman with 22 points and 10 boards, adding a game-high five blocked shots, while Hernst Laroche and Daniel Mullings accounted for 11 and 10 points, respectively, as well. New Mexico State won the battle of the boards, 45-34, and that helped the hosts to overcome 14 turnovers on the night. McKines continues to average a double-double for the program with his 18.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, while Laroche (12.2 ppg) and Rahman (10.8 ppg) try to pick up some of the slack left by Christian Kabongo (14.6 ppg) who has now been out of action for almost two months. One of the top scoring program in the entire country, NMSU is putting up 78.8 ppg thanks in part to having better than 100 more offensive rebounds than the competition over the course of 30 games this season.
Critical free throws by Deonte Burton, Dario Hunt and Malik Story down the stretch in the third overtime period gave Nevada just enough breathing room to come away with the three-point win over Fresno State on the road on Saturday. Burton, who finished with 19 points, knocked down all but two of his 14 free- throw attempts in the meeting for the Pack. Hunt recorded a double-double for the visitors with 20 points and 15 rebounds, adding five blocked shots, while Olek Czyz produced a game-high 25 points to go along with his 11 boards. The Wolf Pack turned the ball over 17 times and shot just 26-of-42 at the free- throw line yet still found a way to pull off the win. Free-throw shooting has been an issue for Nevada on several occasions this season and after 28 outings the team is shooting just 64.3 percent at the charity stripe. However, the good news is that the squad has still outscored opponents by a 441-316 margin at the line and that has helped provide Nevada with a scoring advantage of 6.3 ppg this season. Burton (15.3 ppg), Story (14.3 ppg), Czyz (13.7 ppg) and Hunt (10.3 ppg) all have the potential to have break-out efforts when they hit the hardwood.
Even though the team has been able to rest since last Saturday's battle at Fresno State, the Pack has to be prepared to run up and down the floor with the Aggies tonight because this is a meeting that is bound to have some offensive punch.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 83, New Mexico State 77
03/01 10:33:05 ET